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Got an Itchy Sweater? This Hack Will Make It Super Soft

A woman taking off an itchy sweater.
svitlini/Shutterstock.com

Warm, cozy sweaters are a must in cold weather. But what do you do if your sweater is less cozy than it is itchy? This laundry hack will change your closet forever.

Scratchy sweaters are the worst! Plus, as they typically require different laundering steps than other types of clothing, finding a way to soften the heavy material without damaging it is no picnic, either. Luckily, there’s a way to make that itchy, irritating sweater soft and comfortable. You’ll just need to gather a few products you probably already have in your kitchen and bathroom.

Soak It in a Vinegar Solution

A coral-colored sweater sitting on a white tile countertop next to a bowl of water and a jug of vinegar
Amanda Prahl / LifeSavvy

The first thing you’ll have to do to turn that itchy sweater soft is soak it in a special solution for a bit. Follow these steps:

  1. Fill a glass (or plastic) basin, large bowl, or tub with cold water.
  2. Add 2-3 tablespoons of plain white vinegar and give it a quick stir.
  3. Turn your sweater inside out, if you prefer (you don’t have to), and then fully submerge it in the bowl.
  4. Let your sweater soak for about 15 minutes.

Heinz All Natural Distilled White Vinegar with 5% Acidity (64 oz Jug)

The first step for removing the itch from a sweater.

Grab the Hair Conditioner

A hand holding a dollop of hair conditioner, on top of a coral sweater on a white tile countertop
Amanda Prahl / LifeSavvy

Yep, you read that right! Hair conditioner is the next secret ingredient in this de-itching process. The idea is that it “conditions” the fibers of your sweater just as it does your hair. Just follow these easy steps to condition your sweater:

  1. Remove the sweater from the water.
  2. Gently squeeze or pat your sweater until it’s no longer soaking wet. You can also sandwich it between two towels, and then press gently to remove the excess water.
  3. Gently massage the hair conditioner into your sweater, working it into every inch, including the front, back, collar, cuffs, and sleeves.
  4. Lie the sweater on a flat surface and allow the conditioner to soak in for around 30 minutes.
Tip: It’s very easy to stretch the fibers out of shape when a sweater is wet, so be gentle when massaging in the conditioner.

You don’t have to break the bank on conditoner for this step. However, the super-cheap, low-quality kind is more likely to leave a greasy or waxy cast on your sweater, rather than genuinely penetrating and conditioning the fibers.

We recommend something like Garnier Fructis Pure Clean, which uses a plant-based formula for gentle smoothing and easy rinsing.

Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Conditioner

The plant-based proteins will smooth sweater fibers just as they do your hair.

Rinse and Dry It

Two sets of stacking mesh sweater racks, with sweaters drying on each level.
Storage Maniac

Once the conditioner has worked its magic, you’ll need to get it all out of your sweater, so it will be ready to wear. It just takes a few steps:

  1. Rinse the sweater again in cold water.
  2. Pat out the excess water or use the towel-sandwich method again to absorb as much moisture as possible.
  3. Place a dry towel on a flat surface, and then place the sweater on top of it. The towel will continue to absorb excess water.
  4. Allow it to dry overnight.

If you don’t have an ideal flat surface for drying sweaters, a rack, like this one from Storage Maniac, will provide one for you. The stackable, multitiered design will come in handy for drying or de-itching multiple sweaters at once.

STORAGE MANIAC Sweater Drying Rack

Four tiers of even, elevated drying space.

Freeze It

A coral sweater in a plastic baggie, held up in front of an open freezer
Amanda Prahl / LifeSavvy

If you thought putting hair conditioner on clothes was weird, just wait until you get to these last two steps:

  1. The next day, put your now-dry sweater in a plastic bag. (Make sure it’s completely dry before you do this.)
  2. Seal it up, and then pop it in the freezer for at least 4-6 hours or overnight.

Freezing will “set” the fibers in their now-smooth arrangement. Once you take it out of the freezer, your sweater should be soft and ready to wear.

Ziploc Two Gallon Food Storage Freezer Bags

These extra-large food-storage bags are just the right size for most sweaters.


Now that you’ve got this trick up your sleeve, you can turn a sweater that looks great but feels miserable into one you’ll love wearing again. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sweater care, though, so be sure to always follow the care instructions on the tag.

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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